D8, D17 are paybox giant's first free-to-air channels

PARIS — Vivendi-owned paybox Canal Plus has unveiled the programming slate and acquisitions of its new free-to-air DTT channels D8 and D17.

While D17 will be dedicated to music, D8 will be a general entertainment channel offering TV magazines and talk shows hosted by some of France’s top journalists, including Laurence Ferrari and Daphne Roulier.

Popular Canal Plus thriller skeins, including Olivier Marchal’s “Braquo,” Herve Hadmar’s “Pigalle, la nuit” and Alexandra Cler’s “Engrenage” are all on D8′s drama lineup.

D8′s roaster of foreign series is packed with costumers that have never aired on Canal Plus or on free-to-air channels, notably AMC Western drama “Hell on Wheels,” BBC1 1950s-set “Call the Midwife,” Showtime costumer “The Borgias” (the rival production to Tom Fontana’s “Borgia,” co-financed by Canal Plus), Starz historical-fantasy “Camelot” and BBC crimer “Silent Witness.”

Its films slate includes critically-acclaimed library titles, notably Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer “Brokeback Mountain” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver.”

In comparison with flagship channel Canal Plus, which is a big backer of Gallic cinema, D8 is light on new French fare. As a free DTT channel, D8 isn’t required to invest as much in French and European content as Canal Plus.

Canal Plus committed to requirements set by the anti-trust authorities, aiming to prevent it from bundling pay TV, free-to-air and VOD rights on its films and TV series. The paybox has output deals with the six U.S. majors for its pay TV channels but it’s only allowed to sign an output deal with one U.S. major for its free-to-air webs.

Paid with Vivendi stock, the acquisition of the two nets — formerly controlled by Bollore Group under the names Direct 8 and Direct Star — was greenlit this week by the CSA broadcasting authority, allowing the pay TV group to penetrate the free-to-air market.

Deal makes Vincent Bollore one of the biggest individual shareholders of Vivendi with an estimated 5% of its shares.

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